The Green Party is calling for Ireland to begin growing its own medicinal cannabis.
The party believes new regulations governing its prescription in certain circumstances could offer a business opportunity for the Exchequer – as well as relief for patients.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Oliver Moran, Green Party representative for Cork North Central, said the Government now has to decide whether to import the cannabis – or look at growing it in Ireland.
He said the growing process is extremely precise – with strict regulations on chemical composition, growing methods and the use of pesticides.
Green Party representative Oliver Moran
“The importation is certainly the quicker and easier option in some ways,” he said.
“But I think the growing of it really is where the opportunity is for Ireland, not only for patients here but as an economic initiative.
“That is where Ireland’s strength is – Ireland has great strength in both agriculture and pharmaceuticals.
“I think we are actually very firmly in place to capture this growing market.”
Last year the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) recommended that the drug be made available to patients in Ireland diagnosed with specified conditions who have not responded to other treatments.
The Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed he intended to legalise the use of cannabis based on the HPRA recommendations, with the Government’s compassionate access programme to make it available to multiple sclerosis and epilepsy patients, as well as chemotherapy patients suffering nausea and vomiting.
Grow your own
Mr Moran urged the Government to leverage the experience that is out there to set up a growing operation in Ireland - with a foreign direct investment (FDI) partnership from a global pharmaceutical company.
He said a number of countries that have made similar moves have since begun exporting elsewhere.
“The Canadians in particular have been doing this for a while, there is a lot of expertise and knowledge out there,” he said.
“In Denmark, they went 51% FDI versus a state presence in it.”
“In other countries it is entirely state [run] – for example in Italy it is actually run by the military.”
Despite the HPRA recommendations, the use of medicinal cannabis remains highly restricted in Ireland when compared to other jurisdictions.
The Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill 2016, which allowed for prescription of cannabis for medicinal use, was rejected by the Oireachtas Health Committee last July.
The Oireachtas report warned that the bill could have the effect weakening laws against the recreational use of the drug.
As a result doctors remain prohibited from prescribing medicinal cannabis unless they apply for a special dispensation to do so.
Doctors in other parts of the world – including the US, Canada and Australia – face far less stringent regulations.